Saturday, January 10, 2015

Review: Winterspell

WinterspellTitle: Winterspell
Author:Claire Legrand
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

A Quick Introduction: It's Christmas Eve, 1899. Clara Stole has enough to worry about, with a murdered mother, a grieving father, and a crime syndicate gaining power in New York City. Then, her father is taken by creatures that from another world. To get him back, she must follow him into the war-torn land of Cane, accompanied by Cane's dethroned prince, Nicholas, whom she isn't even sure she can trust. Clara soon finds there is more to her story, and her mother's murder than she ever could have imagined.

Out of Ten: 2/10

Review at a Glance: A standalone fantasy that overall really didn't work for me despite some interesting elements.

Review: This book was just... uncomfortable to read for me for a lot of reasons. I have lists. There were things that squicked me out (the whole thing with the statue, for one... I won't go into that because it is possibly more personal preference?), and things that I found downright problematic. More on that later.

The first thing in this book that didn't work for me was the characters. I had a really hard time with the main character, Clara. She felt incredibly inconsistent. She would constantly switch from a capable competent fighter to someone incapable of handling themselves in a crisis. She didn't feel real, and I didn't understand her decisions at all. Nicholas was... well, I'll be honest, I didn't like him at all, not as a character and not as a person. The common denominator of all of the characters was that they all felt inconsistent, as though they were being shaped for convenience of the situation (whatever trait worked best in a situation, it was there).

This book felt, in a word, problematic. Look! I made a list:
  1. Clara's internalised victim-blaming: this may be somewhat in-world, as women were often blamed for "tempting" men by doing things like walking or having a figure (actually, sometimes they still are, but we will leave that discussion for another time). This was something that was, to an extent, worked through in the book though... so this may not be too strong a part of the list. Moving on.
  2. Nicholas made me incredibly uncomfortable. He's essentially borderline abusive. He uses Clara, he hurts her, then he apologises. Rinse and repeat. The way he's handled was just one that I really didn't like (there are some things I'm not going to mention in this review because of spoilers). He's obviously got some problems of his own from his past (seriously), but people like that really shouldn't do the relationship thing until they've worked through that.
  3. Anise. Again, hurts Clara, apologises (I mean, sometimes apologises). Anise is, in a word, unstable. She's quite unable to empathise with pretty much anyone, she tortures people (yes, she has Clara tortured too). On top of this, Clara is actually Anise's prisoner, and is, therefore in her power... it is a balance of power that is difficult to do in a way that respects those involved. This didn't.
The plot didn't pull me in, and it didn't feel like it grew all that organically, especially with the pacing toward the end. I found myself drifting away from the action, from what was meant to be going on. The world itself was fairly well formed. It has a dark glamour to much of it, and reflects the state of Anise's mind (which is, as I mentioned, quite unstable and destructive). While I did not adore the world, it was well formed and fairly interesting.

The writing was quite simple, though, as I mentioned, I appreciated aspects of the world building. It is mostly told from a third person limited point of view, from Clara's view, with occasional inserts of a story being told by another narrator. As I've mentioned, I struggled the pacing, especially toward the ending. The climax was almost too quick, as well as very simple, compared to the speed at which everything else in the novel happened. Otherwise the writing didn't stand out to me one way or the other.

This books was essentially not for me on just about every level. I didn't particularly enjoy the plot, I didn't particularly enjoy the writing, and some really issues with how aspects of the book were handled.

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